The path to an F-35 with hypersonic missiles is clear

Hypersonic munitions, capable of reaching and exceeding speeds of Mach 5 (more than 3,800 miles per hour), represent a fundamental element for the future of combat.

Lockheed Martin and CoAspire have unveiled an innovative hypersonic missile that could be integrated with the advanced F-35 Lightning II fighter.

This new type of hypersonic munition is set to transform the paradigm of contemporary warfare and be decisive in future conflicts.

The Mako missile and its integration into the F-35

The path to an F-35 with hypersonic missiles is clear
F-35

Both companies officially presented the Mako multi-mission hypersonic missile at the recently held Sea Air Space 2024 event.

Inspired by the agility and speed of the Mako shark, this missile is designed specifically for the United States Navy. It is compatible with various aircraft, including the prominent F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.

According to a Naval News report, the Mako missile is equipped with multiple advanced guidance systems and can engage multiple targets simultaneously.

“For the U.S. Navy, this represents a highly capable, multi-mission weapons system with exceptional survivability and affordability, allowing numerous targets to be held in check with one system already operational,” said Rick Loy, U.S. Navy program director. Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control division, in a statement to Naval News.

The F-35 Lightning II, for its part, is a fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter, available in three variants (A, B and C) that differ mainly in their deployment method and launch capacity, thus expanding the versatility of this platform globally.

The rise of hypersonic munitions in modern warfare

The path to an F-35 with hypersonic missiles is clear
F-35

Hypersonic munitions represent a fundamental element for the future of combat, capable of reaching and exceeding speeds of Mach 5 (more than 3,800 miles per hour). This technological advance promises to overcome enemy air defenses with unprecedented effectiveness.

For example, a hypersonic missile has the ability to hit a cruiser or destroyer equipped with guided missiles before its anti-aircraft systems can intercept it. Compounding this threat, an adversary could simultaneously launch dozens of these missiles toward a single target, dramatically increasing the odds of a successful hit.

Although weapons that achieve hypersonic speeds are not new—intercontinental ballistic missiles have been achieving these speeds for decades—there is a critical distinction between them and modern hypersonic cruise missiles.

While ballistic missiles follow a parabolic trajectory, leaving and re-entering the atmosphere to reach their target, hypersonic cruise missiles take advantage of aerodynamic lift to remain operational and perform maneuvers within the atmosphere, which gives them a significant tactical advantage in the modern battlefield.

Technical challenges and strategic advantages of hypersonic munitions

The exceptional maneuverability of hypersonic missiles poses major challenges to their interception. Unlike ballistic missiles, whose trajectories can be predicted and, therefore, intercepted more easily by air defense systems, modern hypersonic missiles have the ability to execute evasive maneuvers within the atmosphere, making it significantly difficult to anticipate their trajectory Of attack.

However, the incorporation of these weapons into modern arsenals is not free of technical obstacles. The most significant challenge is managing the extreme heat generated during flight at hypersonic speeds, which can reach up to 3,000° Fahrenheit.

To put this in perspective, Venus, the hottest planet in our solar system, clocks in at temperatures around 870° Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, the missiles’ electronic and aviation systems are at risk of melting, which could compromise their operation.

Mastering this technology and overcoming these thermal challenges will give the pioneering country a considerable military advantage, setting a new standard in contemporary warfare and redefining defense and attack strategies globally.